Leeann Tweeden, the Los Angeles news anchor who accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct, said Thursday that she was initially afraid to speak up about the 2006 incident because she was concerned it could hurt her career.
“There were people around me who said, ‘Oh, my God, you will get annihilated and you will never work in this town again,’ and I was afraid of that. I really was afraid of that,” she told the media on air after publishing her initial accusations.
She also said that she didn’t report the incident to anyone at the time because she didn’t want to be the “troublemaker” on the United Service Organizations (USO) tour to entertain the troops in the Middle East they were on together.
She also said she was inspired to speak out now by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) who revealed in October that while she was a staffer on Capitol Hill, the chief of staff “held my face, kissed me, and stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
In lengthy remarks to the press Thursday, Tweeden said that she felt “violated” by Franken when he allegedly forcibly kissed her. She also said that she believes he pushed to kiss her during a rehearsal the show because they were alone.
“I felt like he wrote that just to get that piece in, because he knew he wasn’t going to get it on stage and that was why he was badgering me to do it then when we were alone because that’s what he wanted,” she said.
Tweeden said that after the incident, she avoided being alone with Franken for the rest of the USO tour but that he tried to “belittle” her.
She told reporters that she accepts Franken’s apology for his behavior.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t accept his apology,” she said, adding later that Franken had an opportunity to apologize a couple years after the 2006 tour when she encountered her at a USO gala.
Tweeden was also asked if Franken should resign from the Senate.
“People make mistakes,” she replied. “I’m not calling for him to step down.”
The incidents described by Tweeden took place before Franken took public office, though the allegations have prompted several senators to call for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the matter.
Franken apologized to Tweeden in a statement but said that he does not “remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way.” He also called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations and pledged to fully cooperate.